What is a hernia?
A hernia occurs when tissues or organs bulge through a weak point in the wall of the abdomen (belly muscles).
Some hernias are there at birth. Some occur after surgery.
Other times, weaknesses develop in the muscles of the belly wall over time and eventually ‘give out’ causing a hernia.
Hernias are generally more common in people whose abdomens are under higher than usual pressure, such as people who do a lot of heavy lifting, are obese, are pregnant, have a chronic cough, or have chronic constipation.
Hernias may not cause any symptoms, but typical symptoms include:
- a bulge in the groin or abdomen
- pain, heaviness or discomfort, especially when coughing, straining or lifting
- a pulling sensation around the bulge.
If your doctor thinks you may have a hernia, he or she will examine you. Your doctor may ask you to cough, strain or stand while pressing on the hernia.
If the hernia is small, or if it not causing any problems, then you and your doctor may decide to wait and see what happens.
But if the hernia is very large, or if it’s causing pain or getting trapped at times, then surgery will be recommended.
And if it’s trapped and can’t be pushed back, and you are in serious pain, you could need emergency surgery.
Last reviewed: May 2015